By Asmau Ahmad
The Joint Health Sector Unions (JOHESU) said that the indefinite strike embarked upon nationwide by healthcare professionals is for equity in welfare and remunerations and not a struggle for equality.
One of the executives of the joint unions in Oyo State and Chairman of Nigeria Union of Allied Health Professionals, Mr Oladayo Olabampe, stated this in an interview.
Olabampe said the industrial action declared was a total downing of tools until the Federal and Oyo governments attend to their demands.
“We are fighting for the upward adjustment of our salaries. In the hospital setting, there are two salary structures, we have Consolidated Medical Salary Scale (CONMESS) for the Physicians and Consolidated Health Salary Structure (CONHESS) for other health professionals and non-professionals.
“It was not so before, but that was how double standards started in the health sector. The salary structure has an equivalent grade level and there is also what we call relativity, which takes care of the length of training.
“A medical doctor spends seven years in all training, whereas a medical lab scientist spends six years, and so, there is just one year’s difference between the two professions and the relativity payment has taken care of that on the salary scale.
“In 2014, the government did an upward review of CONMESS, which is for medical doctors and left others and we work on the same patients. There was an agreement that if CONMESS is reviewed, the CONHESS would be reviewed, and that does not affect relativity due to differences in the years of training.
“So, what we are fighting for is equity and not equality. We have been clamouring since 2014 for an upward review, but the government has not yielded to our request. We have used dialogue, discussion and the like, but at last, we were left with no choice but to embark on this indefinite strike,” he said.
Olabampe noted that despite the already tense situation, the government did a 40 per cent upward review for workers on the Consolidated Public Salaries Scale (CONPSS), who was not on the special salary scale to ameliorate the high cost of living being experienced.
“We thought this should be for everyone because we buy from the same market and we are all suffering the same way, but it was only done for those on Consolidated Public Service Salary Structure (CONPSS), then those in the health sector are agitating that increment should be done.
“But by the time the government addressed the issue, it was only CONMESS that was reviewed because they are the ones that went on strike. It has clearly been said that if you want an upward review, you must go on strike,” he added.
According to him, everyone in the health sector is equally important, adding that is teamwork and no one should be considered to be more important.
“Now I am waiting. If there is morbidity in the ward, I am waiting for the doctor who will carry the corpse and stay with the corpse in the mortuary. No tests or scans can be done now to diagnose ailments,” Olabampe added.
He said Oyo State health workers are also on strike due to poor welfare and remuneration.
Olabampe said some of the issues that they want to be addressed include partial treatment in the hazard allowance paid to health workers at the federal level, noting that it was not paid to Oyo State health workers.
“The Oyo State government only pays doctors and nurses teaching allowance and left out all other professionals. Even the committee set up to look into the matter concluded that the government ought to pay other professionals the teaching allowance,” Olabampe said.